Di Natale brings abrupt end to Inter's revival under Leonardo

By Gordon Tynan
Monday 24 January 2011 01:00

Internazionale suffered their first defeat in six games under new coach Leonardo when the Serie A champions lost 3-1 at in-form Udinese yesterday. Inter's Dejan Stankovic hit a 16th-minute opener after Thiago Motta's pass but defender Cristian Zapata soon equalised for eighth-placed Udinese with a powerful left-footed shot which Luca Castellazzi failed to stop.

Serie A top scorer Antonio Di Natale then curled a superb 25th-minute free-kick into the bottom corner and Maurizio Domizzi exposed more questionable goalkeeping from stand-in Castellazzi in the second half. Fifth-placed Inter had won five straight games in all competitions since Leonardo replaced Rafael Benitez on Christmas Eve.

Leaders Milan, beaten at Cesena at the start of the season, nervously defeated the promoted side 2-0 on a relaid San Siro pitch last night thanks in part to Maximiliano Pellegrino's second own goal in two games just before halftime.

Antonio Cassano set up the chance with another great pass before Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored late on, but Milan's lengthy injury list grew with defender Alessandro Nesta suffering a shoulder problem. Napoli in second won 2-0 at Bari, fourth-placed Lazio lost 3-1 away at Bologna.

In Spain, Real Madrid stayed in touch with La Liga leaders Barcelona after underfire striker Karim Benzema went some way to silencing his critics with the only goal in their 1-0 home win over Mallorca last night. Benzema, who had scored only once for Real this season before yesterday, struck in the 61st minute, creating space for himself in the area and sending a low shot past Mallorca's Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.

On Saturday Barça swept aside Racing Santander 3-0 at the Nou Camp. Pedro, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta scored the goals that earned a 14th consecutive league victory, equalling the previous club record set under Frank Rijkaard when they won La Liga and the Champions League in 2005-06.

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